Monkey studies important for brain science

May 15, 2008

Studies with non-human primates have made major contributions to our understanding of the brain and will continue to be an important, if small, part of neuroscience research, according to a recent review published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

Authors John P. Capitanio, professor of psychology at UC Davis and associate director of the California National Primate Research Center, and Professor Marina E. Emborg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center describe the importance of non-human primates in studies of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, neurological complications of AIDS and stress.

"The key contribution of these studies is based on the similarities between the brains of humans and those of non-human primates," said Capitanio, who studies animal behavior. Human and monkey brains show similar organization and structure, and the animals show complex behavior that can be compared to human behavior. However, he said, several complicating factors will always limit the number of animals used, including the financial expense, ethical issues and the relative difficulty of breeding compared to other model animals such as rodents.

All animal models have their strengths and limitations, Capitanio said. But just as a model building helps engineers and architects understand how a structure will work, animal models can help researchers understand body systems.

For example, the drug MPTP -- first synthesized in an illegal drug laboratory -- causes symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease in both humans and monkeys, but not in rats or mice, which lack a crucial enzyme. Researchers are now studying monkeys treated with MPTP to better understand new treatments for Parkinson's disease -- the second most common neurodegenerative disease in people over 65.

"A model is not the real thing, but it can help you understand the real thing," Capitanio said.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pollen on birds shows feeding grounds

43 minutes ago

Encrusted pollen on migrating birds' heads can shed light on where they've taken a break from migration to refuel, scientists say.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

1 hour ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Recommended for you

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

9 hours ago

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

Mind over matter for people with disabilities

Aug 26, 2014

People with serious physical disabilities are unable to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted despite having the will – and the brainpower – to do so. This is changing thanks to European ...

Ukraine's former world's tallest man dies

Aug 25, 2014

Ukraine's tallest man, who briefly held the world record but gave it up to live as a recluse, has died due to complications from the condition that saw him never stop growing, local media reported Monday.

User comments : 0